British summertime: the best drinks to make the most of the season

20 July, 2015

Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, seaside staycations, cricket, festivals, sunshine and rain are all part of the delicious cocktail that is the Great British Summer.

The greatest tennis championship on earth is reaching its crescendo, heralding the true start of summertime fun – and we’ve asked key drinks suppliers for their top tips on how to enjoy the best of British.

As the weather finally starts hotting up, so too are the nation’s barbecues, as Brits lay out the charcoal, string up the bunting, fix the fairy lights and get ready for their garden parties.

“Dusting off the barbecue and enjoying a relaxed meal outdoors has to be one of our favourite summer activities,” says Thatchers managing director Martin Thatcher. “When the sun comes out we all seem so much happier. Enjoying an afternoon or evening with friends with some great-tasting, authentic English cider and easy-to-prepare outdoor food can’t fail to please.”

He recommends Thatchers’ Somerset Haze, new this year and made from Discovery, Falstaff, Gala and Jonagold apples for a crisp, sweet finish.

“When the sun is blazing and it’s the weekend, my ideal experience has to be a garden day with the family,” says Marston’s head of off-trade and export Carl Middleton. “It’s definitely an all-day experience, what with the lighter nights, and it involves a mixture of cooking, eating, and of course, it has to include a nice cold beer.”

Maxxium UK customer marketing controller Chris Richardson urges retailers to cater for a new thirst for making cocktails at home.

“Drinkers are looking to add theatre into their home consumption and this has fuelled a growth in people creating their own mixers, such as homemade lemonade and ginger beer, as well as a growth in at-home cocktail making. According to a recent survey by Mintel, one in four people said they would be interested in making cocktails at home using dark spirits or liqueurs,” he says.

Richardson recommends simple cocktail recipes such as The Famous Grouse & Ginger, which blends the whisky with ginger ale and a wedge of orange.

If the weather gets really hot, keep things cool with frozen drinks.

Diageo has released Pimm’s in a frozen pouch for the first time – Pimm’s Summer Crush blends No 1 Cup with strawberry and cucumber flavours, alongside Gordon’s Frozen Cooler, which mixes apple and elderflower flavours with the gin.

Along with Diageo’s successful Parrot Bay range of frozen cocktails and Kopparberg’s frozen cider pouches, these launches could mean the freezer plays a bigger role than ever in sales this summer.

And of course summer parties wouldn't be the same without the original, unfrozen Pimm's, which accounts for 46% of speciality spirits sales in the summer, compared to 21% year-round, according to Diageo. Pimm’s is now also available in Strawberry With A Hint of Mint and Blackberry & Elderflower flavours, as well as new Pimm’s Cider Cup – which Diageo says has opened up a £14 million sales opportunity across the trade.

Sports are another key part of the mix.

Will Holt, director of Pinkster gin, describes house racing at Goodwood on the Sussex Downs, with linen suits and “floaty” dresses as a “quintessentially British day out”.

“Call me biased but [the perfect drink for that] has to be our signature serve G&T, Pinkster with Fever-Tree tonic, a raspberry and a sprig of fresh, well-spanked mint,” he adds.

Geoff Bradman, head of sales for Westons, the official cider of English cricket, says: “The quintessential British summertime event has to be the Friday of a Lord’s test. It’s always packed full of people enjoying themselves and making the most of the British summer.”

Glastonbury launched the festival season in a blaze of glory, and there is plenty more to look forward to, from Reading to the Big Chill and from the London Hardcore Festival to Proms in the Park – as well as a whole host of foodie festivals.

Chris Houlton, managing director of Greene King brewing and brands, says: “Food festivals are well and truly established as part of the British seasonal calendar.

“We will be taking our ales to a number of food festivals around the UK this summer – they are a great opportunity for food and beer matching, and to introduce new customers to the category.”

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